Nigeria has placed its capital Abuja and six other states on high alert following the emergence of the Delta variant of coronavirus infections in the country.

The presidential steering committee on COVID-19 says the number of new cases and hospital admissions have continued to rise.

Correspondent Phil Ihaza on COVID-19 and the Delta variant that has emerged in the country:

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is like most parts of the continent now facing a COVID-19 third wave after detecting the more transmissible Delta variant.

The head of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said the states had been placed on red alert as part of preventive measures against the pandemic.

A red alert allows authorities in the states to restrict celebrations and gatherings to a minimum.

“These steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria,” Mustapha said in a statement.

Mustapha said there was potential for wider spread of the virus during the Eid-el-Kabir gatherings and said Friday prayers should be held outside local mosques.

He also suspended Durbar, an annual Muslim festival in northern Nigeria, which is marked by colourful horse riding events watched by large gatherings.

Last week, Nigeria, which had recorded 169 329 cases and 2 126 deaths said it expected to receive nearly 8 million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of August, including from a US government donation. – additional reporting by Reuters